Tip #15: Forrest for the Trees

Improved passwords and two-factor authentication have made you a safer visitor while blocking malware has helped secure your home turf, but how do you protect yourself in-between while browsing the wild wild west of the World Wide Web? (say that ten times fast)

You can take several simple steps to avoid evil on the Internet, and most boil down to the same advice I give about dating: use your head, and use protection.

Use Your Head

It was the American philosopher Mrs. Gump who taught us that “stupid is as stupid does”: indeed, no level of technology can protect against excessive carelessness, aka ‘stupid’, and even the most intelligent minds are prone to foolish acts.

Don’t be foolish while browsing — be aware!

Specifically, beware of phishing scams designed to trick you into surrendering credentials on spoofed pages posing as legitimate sites.

Simple hoaxes that began with Nigerian princes have evolved into sophisticated rackets which convincingly mimic reputable institutions – you don’t have to be “stupid” to fall for them. Still, if you’re smart about it, you’ll be safe.  

Before surrendering sensitive information, always consider the source, the request, and the location.

  • If you receive an uncharacteristic message from any source, ask yourself, “Why am I getting this? Did I request this? Does this seem right?”
  • Remember that no trustworthy company will ever solicit sensitive information (including passwords) via email
  • Before submitting credentials to any website, confirm your browser’s address bar contains a lock icon indicating a secure, certified connection (scammers often use URLs that are deceptively close to the sites they’re spoofing).

In fact, a good rule-of-thumb is NEVER follow an email link to a secure site – use a bookmark or search engine to ensure you’re at the genuine site, double-check for the lock, and navigate from there.

Use Protection

How does the Secret Service protect the President between secure locations? They use a bulletproof car. How do you hire a bulletproof car for the information superhighway? You use a VPN.

Virtual Private Networks are the perfect prophylactic whenever using public Wi-Fi (airports, coffee shops, workspaces, etc.). These subscription services act like portable firewalls, accessed via apps that provide end-to-end encryption to keep bad guys from eyeing your traffic or grabbing your info out of the air.

I use encrypt.me on all my devices, but there are many good VPNs available for a few bucks a month – always employ them on unsecured connections, and there’s no harm in using them while on a trusted network (the safest bet is to set them to be always-on).

Wrapping Up

A little common sense and a little technology can keep you safe when browsing; be smart with your data and secure with your connections (while educating employees to do the same)…and life will be as sweet as a box of chocolates.

Oh, and while you are enjoying that box of chocolates, if you have immediate concerns about any of these practices, click here to send me an email with “Security”  in the subject line and I’ll be happy to share what works for my team.

About the Author

Tom Lambotte is the CEO and Founder of Security+, an all-in-one security solution for solo and small firm lawyers. They provide leadership and direction to transform law firm operations and boost profits by leveraging technology.

Tom’s methods are based on over a decade of research, testing, and real-world refinement of best practices, working directly with law firms. Tom is the author of Hassle Free Mac IT Support for Law Firms and Legal Boost: Big Profits Through an IT Transformation and has a forthcoming book being published by the ABA Law Practice Division titled Macs in Law. He is a highly sought after speaker at national events such as the ABA Techshow and MacTrack Legal.

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